The conservation of forests is practically impossible if the people who live in it cannot achieve economic benefits. This is the premise of the panel “Companies of forest communities: new models for adaptation and mitigation” organised by the Centre for Peoples and Forests (RECOFTC), an international non-profit organisation that works on capacity building for community forestry in the Asia-Pacific region during the 4th session at the COP25 in Madrid, Spain. The panel raised the question about how these communities that have been decimated by rapid industrialisation and the various effects of climate change survive.
“PEFC is like a smart phone”
In her speech Ana Belén Noriega, General Secretary of PEFC Spain (Association for Spanish Forest Certification) recalled that forest, in addition to regulating the water cycle and protecting the soil, offers work and livelihoods to local communities with wood and non-wood products. PEFC guarantees consumers the sustainable origin of all these products with an instrument that allows producers to access new markets. “The PEFC label is the direct path that unites forests and products in the market.”
With a bottom-up strategy, that is from the forester to the final consumer, PEFC encourages forest owners to create their own certification networks at local and national levels in compliance with the Sustainable Development Goals. Noriega compared the certification label: “PEFC is like a smart phone, a complex instrument with strict criteria but very simple to use by owners, whether they are families or small businesses.”
Globally PEFC has already managed to certify 325 million hectares managed by 750,000 owners who provide wood and other forest resources to 22,000 companies in more than 70 countries. In Spain, 2,241,000 hectares have already been managed by 35,000 managers and 1,450 companies have PEFC certification.
The Secretary General of PEFC Spain highlighted that the label brings a lot of confidence to family forest owners, small-scale forests and small businesses, which use it to mark their products when they go on the market, in addition to the pride of fulfilling their part in the compliance with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
Corruption, ignorance and inequality vs. Traceability, training and compensation
CIFOR scientist in Vietnam Pham Thu Thuy, where she works in payments to the poorest communities for environmental services, referred to the impact of FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade) on small-scale companies. Inequalities in land extension and knowledge, a weak legal framework and the lack of supply of certified wood poses a high risk of corruption.
Regarding the gender considerations of the FLEGT Voluntary Association Agreements, their impact is limited and ignored. “Women in forest communities are less paid.” As for the United Nations program for the Reduction of Emissions caused by Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), there is no implication regarding women. “Women’s interests are not well executed or their payment preferences are well understood,” Thuy said.
In the long term, meeting the Sustainable Development Goals requires solutions based on the functioning of the market, said Aliya Das Gupta, from iov42, who included the need to support carbon credit revenues in the discussion. She also pointed to corruption as an element of uncertainty, in addition to crime, and ignorance. “Consumers have no idea how or where they can achieve traceability in a supply chain. You have to help companies to be transparent and choose intelligently. “It is at that point where the blockchain can be used to make carbon credits visible and traceable by making it verifiable,” she said.
Alvin Li, CEO and founder of The Common Goods, talked about his experience producing organic products for companies, hotels and events. “Our mission is to replace single-use plastics by offering greener alternatives for consumers and businesses.” These initiatives are bringing new materials and products from local communities and are having an environmental impact, Li said, but also in a change in behaviour that translates into a social and ethical impact.
Arrived from the University of Dresden, Marcel Starfinger, spoke of innovative financing and incentive tools for small forest owners in Southeast Asia and Latin America, which includes small forest owners, the public sector, banks and processing industries.